ALS walk brings community together for a cure

Sunday's walk contributions fund ALS research and support

Walkers return to the University of Victoria this weekend for the annual walk in support of those living with ALS

Walkers return to the University of Victoria this weekend for the annual walk in support of those living with ALS

Rick Stiebel

Black Press

They walk for those who no longer can.

The 15th annual Peoples Drug Mart Walk for ALS unites families, teams, volunteers and sponsors to generate awareness and raise funding for support and research for local families waging the daily battle against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

ALS is a fatal neuromuscular disease that affects the motor neurons that carry messages to muscles. When muscles fail to receive those messages, they lose strength, atrophy and die, resulting in immobilization.

Lisa Ruffolo was diagnosed with ALS 19 months ago.

The local mother of two had sought medical advice when she started to notice weakness in her right hand. After visits to specialists in Victoria and Vancouver, the 45-year-old teaching assistant and her husband were informed that the prognosis was three to five years.

“I remember sobbing and repeatedly saying, ‘But I’m healthy. I hardly ever drink, I’ve never done drugs, I go to Jazzercise four or five times a week, and I’m in the best shape of my life,”’ she said. “But the doctor told me ALS strikes like lightning. There are no known causes.

“Since ALS burst into my life 19 months ago, my strong body is slowly being robbed of its abilities,” she said.

“I depend on others to help me with things I never used to think twice about, putting a sleeve on my Starbucks coffee, zipping up my jacket, two-handed things. I feel incredibly loved and cared for by my family, friends and kind people I meet when I’m out and about. This stupid disease makes no sense. I have found a sense of peace that can only be explained by the immense love and goodness that others show on a daily basis.

“Our community, the people we see every day, I truly believe will reach out a hand to help another if they see the need.”

That’s why Ruffolo and everyone affected by ALS are hopeful that research will identify the causes and find a cure, and why fundraisers such as the People’s Drug Mart Walk for ALS Victoria are so vital.

This year’s walk takes place Sunday, Sept. 18 at the University of Victoria parking lot 10 beginning at 11:30 a.m., with the five-kilometre walk set to start at 1 p.m.

The Victoria event is one of the original ALS walks in the province, beginning before the walks became a national initiative in 2005, said Wendy Toyer, executive director for the ALS Society of BC.

Victoria and the North Central Island are the only ALS societies in Canada that are completely volunteer driven, she noted.

“It’s a significant fundraiser and a signature event, a really important part of our volunteer-run support groups,” Toyer said.

She praised the efforts of volunteer patient services co-ordinator Ellen Mahoney in particular, a nurse who has volunteered countless hours during the past 30 years.

“I wish we could clone her and have her working all over the province,” Toyer said. “She’s very low key and very supportive. I’m sure anyone affected by ALS in Victoria is very thankful for what Ellen has done.”

The People’s Drug Mart Walk for ALS Victoria has raised $581,712 since 2006, representing a significant portion of the more than $4.7 million raised provincewide to date.

Victoria’s walk is also one of the largest in Canada, sharing that distinction with the Richmond-Vancouver Walk for ALS.

Local walk co-ordinator Cheryalee Hutchison said in a media release that “right now the ALS community has an extraordinary chance to step forward with renewed confidence and vigour.”

Proceeds of the event will ensure promising research is funded, and support is provided to people affected by ALS in our community, Hutchison noted.

“Thanks to the support of our sponsors and the extensive network of committed ALS volunteers in our community, we are making unprecedented inroads.”

Sixty per cent of contributions to the walk go toward supporting the ALS Society of B.C.’s patient services program, with the remainder earmarked for the ALS Canada research program.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coroner Andy Watson confirmed the death of a man in Chemainus Monday night.
Death at Victoria encampment for people who are homeless deemed not suspicious

BC Coroners Service now investigating death at Royal Athletic Park Jan. 23

Learning tools from the Garth Homer Society’s LifeStreams program have gone online. (Facebook/Garth Homer Society)
Online platform launched for Greater Victoria adults with developmental disabilities

Platform includes programs, events, activities and COVID-19 resources

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

Most Read